Michael's Reviews > The Great Game: The Struggle for Empire in Central Asia

The Great Game by Peter Hopkirk
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Jul 10, 11

Read from June 13 to July 10, 2011

We've all heard that Afghanistan has repulsed invasions for centuries. Here is the inside story of this tribal nation as a chessboard on which Russian and Great Britain played a global game of chess (with occasional armed conflicts) through the 18th and 19th centuries. Russian's game was to expand its central Asian holdings and perhaps (truly in a quest for world domination) take India from the Brits and Constantinople from the waning Ottomans. This wild tale of intrigue includes a litany of 19th-century James Bond techniques including disguises, ruses, double-crosses, double-agentry, advanced weaponry; but also the sheer brutality of long, wintry marches and massacres (happened twice to the British after they thought they had taken Kabul without a battle).

What did I learn? That is indeed foolhardy to meddle in this region. The book also presages two great conflicts of the 20th (Cold War) and 21st (war on Islamic terrorism) centuries.

Why three stars? Hopkirk can write but I marked him down for including too many characters and with a bewildering array of names (Younghusband anyone)? Still well worth reading.

Note: I got a Kindle for my birthday. This is the first book I read on Kindle. Plus side: Mighty handy and easy to read, especially if you're exercising on an elliptical machine, as I often do, in a gym. You can adjust the typeface, size and spacing at will. Minus: The guilt, the guilt! As the consumate late adopter (I only recently gave up my millstone to grind wheat), I am convinced that I am the harbinger of death for bookstores, places that I love. Another minus: Many books are not yet available on Kindle. So you wind up buying a book or lugging library book anyway. I could always turn it in.

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message 1: by Bap (new)

Bap Afghanistan is an impossible country to control for outsiders. They can't do it themselves very well either. We need to withdraw and focus on what really counts, Pakistan. Protracted military occupations where they are shooting at us and we do not have the consent of the population is a recipe for disaster, which is what we have.


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